Ballymena 0 - Letterkenny 25
Letterkenny maintain their unbeaten record in an enthralling match.
1. Jayden Friel
2. Eoin Parkinson
3. Dan Geoghegan
4. Conor Smyth
5. Jynaid Reyes
6. Isaac McElwaine
7. Mathew Duffy
8. Jack Speer - Captain
9. Ben Hopkins
10. Kaymin Shortt
11. Tiernan McFadden
12. Brian McGettigan
13. Orrin Burgess
14. Leon Duffy
15. David Henry
Subs: Finn Nicolas, Conor Mangan, Calum Orsi , Alex McDermott, Ewan Douglas, Jack Gibbons & Eoin Harris
The lads arrived in Ballymena on a fine winters morning with little wind and the ground was dry although it was a touch on the cool side especially for the spectators who had made their way from Letterkenny in good numbers. The scene was set for what felt like a final as number one and two in the league were set to do battle with Letterkenny looking to maintain their unbeaten run for the season.
Ballymena get the game underway kicking from left to right and the ball finds its way into touch off a Ballymena player and Letterkenny have their first lineout of the day, which is won cleanly in the air by a great catch from Jaynaid and this was to be a feature of much of the game as Letterkenny dominated the lineout play for much of the game. Letterkenny look fired up for the game and with some great moves by forwards and backs alike, keep the pressure on Ballymena for the first 6 or 7 mins keeping them pinned deep in their own 22. From a turnover ball Ballymena this time get some moves together and the ball finds its way into the hands of their fullback who has pace to burn, he breaks the line and gets into open space however Kaymin turns on his heels and with electric pace of his own chases him down and brings him down on the Letterkenny 22 when he looked sure to score.
Letterkenny turnover the ball yet again and this time Jack Speer puts his head down and makes 10 meters, he in turn feeds Dan who puts his body on the line and barges through making more ground, the forwards are now fired up and mauling down the field making those precious meters. The ball peels to the left through the hands of Jack Speer and into the waiting hands of Orrin who draws in the last 2 defenders and pops the ball out to the wing where Tiernan with a lovely step inside crashes over the line in the left corner. [0 – 5] after 9 mins of play with a tough conversion narrowly missed by Orrin.
From the kick off Ballymena manage to turn over the ball and get it out the line only to be stopped in their tracks by a powerful tackle from Brian McGettigan who forces his man to knock on in the tackle. The ball this time goes out the back line and David Henry pins back his ears and makes it from inside his own 22 up to the 10 meter line. The pack are quick to get their and Conor Smyth picks up the ball and with great strength and determination makes 10 meters before being brought to the ground. Again the ball is recycled and fed out to Kaymin who goes on one of his surging runs, ducking and diving and makes another 10 meters. Again the pack are quick to respond and protect the ball so Ben can again set the back line into motion running it out through the hands and gaining more territory, with Leon getting a chance to stretch his legs and again superb determination shown by the forwards getting to the break down and holding the possession.
Letterkenny get to the 5 meter line and are awarded a penalty which they tap quickly and into the hands of Dan who goes for the line but is just held up over the line for a 5 meter scrum. Credit to Ballymena this time as they hold the scrum and manage to turn over the ball under huge pressure from the Letterkenny pack, but they only mange to clear to touch just outside the 22. Letterkenny again dominant in the lineout win the ball and feed the back line with Kaymin this time opting for the skip pass and whips the ball out to Orrin at second center and again the big center sucks in two players and feeds the ball out wide again to Tiernan who is only too happy to sprint over the line and score out wide on the left. [0 – 10] after 20 mins again a difficult conversion taken by Orrin goes to the left of the posts.
Again from the kick off Letterkenny continue to show their dominance and continue to go through the phases and make some good ground with forwards and backs all doing their part. Letterkenny again find themselves in striking distance and when the ball is fed out wide again Orrin finds himself with ball in hand and crashes over 10 meters in from the left corner. [0 – 15] conversion from Orrin again drifts left and wide and the score at HT remains at [0 -15] to the visitors.
Substitution made at half time, Finn Nicolas in for Leon Duffy.
Orrin gets the second half underway but the ball doesn’t make the required 10 meters and Ballymena are awarded the scrum on the halfway line. Ballymena try to get the ball out wide but the Letterkenny defence is like a brick wall as it has been all year and Ballymena struggle to make ground.
Letterkenny turnover and Jack Speer makes a surging run through the middle and off loads to Jaynaid who also makes great ground and again the pack are quick to the break down and set the platform to run it out the backs, this time no way through but the pack again show their fitness and get to the ball where this time Mathew Duffy peels from the back of the maul and makes 5 meters.
8 mins in and the coaches decide to make another change with Conor Smyth coming off to be replaced by Conor Mangan. Letterkenny again find themselves only 10 meters out and win yet another lineout and the pack decides to have a go themselves with Jynaid feeding Isaac and them onto Jack Speer who goes for the line but some great defence this time from Ballymena sees the ball held up over the line.
Letterkenny keep the pressure on and after several penalties the Ref is given no option but to sin bin the number 4 for Ballymena for persistent fouling with 15 mins left on the clock. This time Ben taps of from 5 meters and feeds Dan Geoghegan who makes a couple of meters before feeding Jack Speer who with a lovely side step crashes over in the right corner. [0 – 20] this time Kaymin attempts the difficult conversion from the side line and it falls short of the bar.
From the off this time Dan finds himself in possession and adds to his tally of carries for the day making another 5 meters before being brought down but does well to maintain the possession with the assistance of the Letterkenny pack who are again first to the break down.
Conor Mangan takes a heavy tackle and is forced to make way for Alex McDermott with 10 mins left on the clock. Ballymena continue to battle and get the ball out wide but this time a crunching double tackle from Ben Hopkins and Isaac McElwaine puts a halt to any thoughts they had of a score on the day. Letterkenny manage to gain possession again and set the maul in the middle of the field just outside the 22, Ben looks for Kaymin but this time spots a gap and makes a bolt for the line leaving the Ballymena players stunned and he scores to the right of the posts but ends up getting a knee to the chest for his troubles, but a super individual try none the less. [0 – 25] 5 mins to go. Conversion missed by Kaymin.
The ref awards a penalty to Letterkenny instead of a Ballymena restart due to the foul on Ben while scoring his try.
With only mins left Letterkenny keep the pressure on with a fine run from Brian McGettigan up the right wing but he is stopped in his tracks with a huge tackle from the last man for Ballymena stopping what looked like another try for Letterkenny.
The ref blows the final whistle and the Letterkenny supporters give a loud cheer as it looks like their team are set to win the league as their unbeaten run remains intact with only a few games left to play.
Great performance again by each and every lad, thanks to the coaches for aiding the team thus far, and thanks to all who travelled to watch an exciting game unfold.